BLOG: Driving efficiency in housing maintenance procurement
Steve Parrington, Managing Director of ForWorks, explains how to ensure your repairs provision strikes the right balance between value for money and excellent service.
A quality repairs service is one of the most important offers a landlord provides.
It is one of the biggest costs a landlord faces, but also the service that sees the highest rates of direct interaction between the provider and customers.
That is why the balance between achieving great value for money and first-class customer services is so important – and why we at ForWorks pride ourselves on getting jobs right first time. .
Innovative procurement is playing a key role in helping landlords drive efficiencies while maintaining a high-quality service.
Here I set out my tips on the best ways to improve efficiency in repairs and maintenance services.
1. Take a ‘right first time’ approach
Generally, the longer a job takes to complete, the more costs rise. That’s why we adopt a ‘right first time’ approach to all of our work.
By dramatically cutting down on repeat visits to jobs, we are keeping prices down for landlords. Too many providers still spend too long on repairs jobs. It’s not good for customers and it’s not good for the bottom line.
For in-house teams, there is a lot to be learned from the approaches adopted by private contractors. Resources are often limited, so we must deploy them in the right way.
We dedicate time to planning jobs in advance and have the systems, process skills and equipment in place to adapt to any situation. Through our mobile platform operational staff use electronic PDAs, this allows us to pass real time information to our systems maintaining key communication directly with customers, and keep satisfaction levels high.
2. Look at the culture of the organisation
Culture is king. Organisations that think and act like a commercial business will naturally drive up standards and reduce costs.
They are the firms that will embrace new and better ways of working, and will develop lasting relationships with clients.
In some cases, this may require training and development of staff – and it will not be achieved overnight.
Some DLOs and former in-house services treat their parent company differently from any other clients they have. You should never take them for granted – this promotes the wrong message to staff.
An ethos of treating all your clients equally and striving to provide excellent customer service and satisfaction to each and every client is essential.
3. Value your work correctly
A healthy line of communication with clients is important. Openness and transparency builds trust which improves service efficiency. It also makes potentially tough conversations easier.
Keep a close eye on budgets and if costs could go up for any reason and an overspend is on the horizon – that is the nature of the business sometimes – flag this up as early on as possible.
It’s important to keep tabs on spend, but also record the value you deliver. You should be able to show clients that value outstrips the cost.
Work with clients or contractors to review market intelligence and see if it’s possible to trim costs further by doing things differently.
At ForWorks we review business reports every month that evidence how much each job costs and how much was recovered. If there is a surplus where we have made efficiencies, we can go back to the client to see what that extra spend could be used for.
4. Share best practice and learn from others
Seek out and share best practice and move with the times. New innovations and ideas are being brought forward all the time. It’s important that you are not late to the party.
At ForWorks we make good use of the Direct Work Forum to share intelligence and learn from other companies. Looking at ways to continuously improve what you are doing drives efficiency and ultimately cost savings.
Some organisations take the attitude ‘this is how we have always done things’. They are the organisations still likely to be using outdated paper-based systems rather than more efficient electronic ones.
If new ideas lead to a better service then we must embrace them.